Why Jim Harbaugh potentially bolting for NFL amid Michigan cheating scandal could prove difficult, per report

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Amid an NCAA investigation into an alleged sign-stealing scheme at Michigan, the NFL is “unlikely to make itself a safe harbor” for embattled Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero. Harbaugh has become known for his flirtations with NFL head-coaching opportunities during his nine-year run with the Wolverines, and it would be no surprise if he’s of interest to professional franchises again this year as he guides the No. 2 Wolverines. Should he decide to take an NFL opportunity, Harbaugh could be required to serve “some or all” of a potential NCAA suspension, according to the report.

NCAA investigators have been on campus at Michigan in recent days, and the association’s quick response to the allegations against the Wolverines suggest the sign-stealing scandal could be a high-priority case. However, the wheels of justice turn slowly in matters of NCAA jurisprudence, and it’s conceivable that Harbaugh could try and jump ship before the fallout arrives.

At the heart of the investigation is staffer Connor Stalions, who allegedly bought tickets for more than 30 games (many of them within Big Ten) and used “illegal technology” to steal signs. Stalions has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of the NCAA’s investigation. Harbaugh, who has already been entangled with the NCAA for alleged recruiting violations, has denied knowledge of the operation. 

There is a mixed precedent for high-profile college coaches seeking to jet for NFL opportunities amid scandals at their college programs. Pete Carroll famously left USC after the 2009 season to become coach of the Seattle Seahawks before the Trojans were hit with significant penalties — which included a two-year bowl ban — in the case centered around alleged improper benefits received by ex-USC star Reggie Bush.

By contrast, former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was treated much differently in the NFL amid a similar NCAA investigation into the Buckeyes that zeroed in on players trading memorabilia for tattoos. In that situation, Tressel faced a five-game suspension at Ohio State before resigning and becoming a game-day consultant for the Colts, who held Tressel out of his duties for the first six weeks of the season.

The NCAA’s investigation into Michigan for sign-stealing is a rapidly-developing story and CBS Sports is covering it in real time. Click here for live coverage.


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